By Jill Moon
The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A longtime Alton restaurant is receiving support through Deluxe Corp.’s “Small Business Revolution” program. Lovett’s Soul Food will debut its new logo and remodeled restaurant to the world when the third season of “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” gives a sneak peek at its wrap party.
A whole new world opened for the Lovett family when Deluxe Corporation selected the family’s namesake restaurant as one of its chosen six businesses to receive expertise and funding for improvements and re-branding.
Owners Merry Ann Lovett, and her son, Brad Chavours, mentioned renovation and expansion as goals for Lovett’s Snoots, Fish, Chicken & More almost exactly one year ago to The Telegraph, when the Deluxe Corp.’s Small Business Revolution concept was yet unknown to #OurAlton.
Now, Lovett and Chavours’ business is re-named Lovett’s Soul Food since the “Revolution” began.
The streaming reality show “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” began its on-site filming in Alton in April, first with Lovett’s Snoots, Fish, Chicken & More, at 2512 College Ave. in Upper Alton, before the soul food restaurant debuted its new name, which is the name that now appears online and social media for the business.
“It’s really exciting. It really feels great to have someone who wants to make your dreams come true,” Lovett said recently to The Telegraph.
The dream of a successful restaurant not only is Lovett’s dream, but that of her family.
Decades ago, Albert (1925-2011) and Ophelia (1925-2004) Lovett moved to Southeast Illinois from Arkansas.
The late family patriarch held a vision for such a venture as the one led by Lovett and Chavours.
Last summer, his 16 of 19 children, three of whom are deceased, recalled how Albert Lovett commanded his farm and livestock at Godfrey’s historic Rocky Fork settlement, hoping those resources would one day be the source for a family restaurant’s meat and produce.
“He would be so excited, Daddy would be so excited,” Lovett said. “He saw it, he knew this would happen.
He knew the most economical way to go was raising your own food — he had veggies, he had meat — for a restaurant. Voila, we have a restaurant. Brad wants a farm, but I’m too old to have a farm!”
Albert Lovett, who worked at Duncan Foundry for years and was a strong union man, instilled self-sufficiency, worked hard and provided greatly for his family, Aaron Lovett recalled previously to The Telegraph.
Aaron, whose mother, Ophelia, instilled the magic of music in the Lovett family, is his parents’ oldest son, a Vietnam War Purple Heart veteran and a musician, who led vocals in the 1970s’ band The Syndicate of Soul.
“My dad had a passion for his farm because that’s how he was raised — on a farm,” he said. “He knew a lot about agriculture, traditions passed down. Most of the stuff he knew, you can’t find it in books. It gave him a sense of refuge away from all the city stuff, a way to relax.
In the city of Alton and surroundings, Albert also ran a trash collecting business. But, he’d rather be sowing dirt, raising animals and giving away the abundance of vegetables he produced.
“This is a dream of my dad, Albert Lovett, who was an entrepreneur himself,” Merry Lovett said. “Talk about a legacy! The restaurant was part of his vision. Our inheritance is what he did day-to-day.”
Lovett already received some of her wish-list items through the Small Business Revolution campaign, including a pair of top-of-the-line stainless-steel freezers and a matching refrigerator.
Those will be installed when Lovett’s Soul Food will be closed from Monday, June 11, through Wednesday, June 13, for remodeling.
A “cleaning party” — open to the public — will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, which will be filmed by the “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” crew.
“They’re so sweet, they’re all so sweet,” Lovett said of the crew, including Deluxe’s Chief Brand and Communications Officer Amanda Brinkman, who could be sighted in town this week, when she is scheduled to arrive in Alton.
Brinkman brought expert Chef Deborah VanTrece from the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours in Atlanta, Georgia, to meet with Lovett and her son a few months ago.
This year, Zagat named VanTrece one of its “15 bad-ass chefs in the country.” VanTrece’s Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours’ Facebook page describes its food as “Soul Food Elevated,” but that did not deter Lovett from standing by her family’s recipes, handed down to Albert Lovett’s children.
“No way we’re changing that,” Lovett said of the closely-held family recipes served at Lovett’s Soul Food.
But, Lovett said, she will incorporate VanTrece’s tips about how to display the Lovett products and sauces.
VanTrece also added her expertise about ways for Lovett’s Soul Food to expand its menu, including more barbecue choices.
Lovett’s Soul Food will debut its new logo and remodeled restaurant to the world when the third season of “Small Business Revolution — Main Street” gives a sneak peek at its wrap party.